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Was aQuantive a smart acquisition?

Robert Scoble asks: Was aQuantive, stupid or smart purchase by Microsoft?

Initially Robert says he didn’t like the aquisition. Now, however, he says “…I’ve been doing a bit more looking at who aQuantive employs: a whole lot of people who decide, or at minimum influence, where big companies will advertise.”

Going after the top companies and getting their advertising dollars makes sense. And acquiring a company that has established advertising relationships with them makes sense too.

However, for me, I’d like to see Microsoft bring forth an ad platform that’s focused on being inclusive. That enables more advertisers. That enables more publishers. That enables more viewers. And in doing so reducing costs compared to competing approaches.

Roll back the clock to when Google introduced its text-based advertising. That’s what made it so much better than competing display ads at the time.

At last year’s Microsoft Partner event in Boston, I talked up this approach with several Microsoft employees from several different groups. A few understood it. However, it was clear they were focusing on the top 15% advertisers (my impression–not something anyone told me). Their thought process would be: How can Microsoft get the top 15% of Google’s (insert your favorite company here) customers to move to their ad platform? I can appreciate the mindset. It makes complete business sense.

But in a growing market, there’s so much more that can be done. The idea to shift a customer’s dollars spent on one form of advertising to another is too limiting. The goal should be to enable more. To add efficiencies. To reduce costs. At the core, a business model that’s geared towards enabling “more”, I predict will beat out its competition.

So is aQuantive a good move? An MBA would tell you yes. For an engineer like me, I see so much more potential.

Can Microsoft leverage this acquisition to improve its image in the advertising world? To improve its image on wall street? To signal how agressive it’s going to compete in the advertising markets? Absolutely. I’m sure Microsoft can make this work. However, it’s the areas beyond where I think aQuantive’s reach is that I’m most intested in and concerned about for Microsoft. I hope Microsoft looks out at all the enthusiast sites the MVPs have, at the strength of the community sites and blogs run by many of Microsoft’s customers, and its many technology partners, and can see ways of improving the advertising experience for them too along the way. A system that enables these “small” efforts as well as the mainstream advertisers and publishers could have huge impact in the online and offline worlds.

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